Sept 5 and 6, 2016 - a couch in California

I spent the week after the wedding being a dog sitter for Eddie while Mike and Amanda were on their honeymoon.  I expected to do several day trips and some local hikes, but instead I mostly vegged out in front of Mike's excellent TV.  I was more tired than I expected.  I watched the sequel to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", which was also excellent.  I watched the entire first season of Fargo.  Very dark, quirky, sick, and extremely entertaining.  I watched all three Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies.  Again, very dark, quirky, sick, and extremely entertaining.   Spoiler alert -- the good guys eventually win.  Sort of.

 

At least Eddie had company and got to go on two long walks every day.  When I finally got off the couch, Eddie and I took a drive up into the Santa Monica Mountains.  We were not able to go into the Santa Monica Mountains State Park because they don't allow dogs.  Instead we found a trail that led to an Observatory.  Eddie practically ran up the mountain, pulling on his leash the whole way.  The entire region is in such a serious drought that there is almost no food around and consequently not a lot of wildlife.  We took a drive down one of the local highways and stopped at a spot that should have been full of birds.  It was burnt out from a recent fire.  We tried to hike in a spot where I had seen a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers and Scrub Jays on a previous trip, but that was completely dry and so, so hot.  Eddie was being a good sport, but it was too much.  After a short time we gave up and headed back.  

 

Sept 7, 2016 - Sand Dunes Park, California

 This is a little neighborhood park just off the coast at Marathon Beach.  It is a jewel of a nature preserve.  There are giant dunes that are roped off for work out enthusiasts to walk up (you have to start at the bottom)and then back down.  There are pretty trails that wander through the park and some of them go up many flights of stairs, so walkers use these for exercise as well.  There are a lot of pretty birds in the park, so it is a draw for birders.  When I was there, I got into a flight of Golden-crowned warblers - yes, right in the middle of them.  They were flying around in some bushes and ignored me, as long as I didn't move too fast.

 

Golden-crowned Warbler, Sand Dunes Park, Calif - 9/7/2016

 

 After about an hour of pretty poor luck, I was walking out, when I saw two birders with their binoculars trained into the bushes at the lower end of the park.  They were very friendly, and being local, they were very knowledgeable about the local birds.  The sun was just warming up the park about then and the bird activity really picked up.  We saw some nice birds.  Tne biggest thrill for me was a gorgeous Black-headed Grosbeak.

 

Black-headed Grosbeak, Sand Dunes Park, Calif - 9/7/2016

 

We saw both Pacific- slope Flycatchers and Western Wood Pewees and these are hard to tell apart.  I'm pretty sure that the bird in the photo below is the Western Wood Pewee.  If a better birder knows differently, please post a correction.  Thanks.

Western Wood Pewee, Sand Dunes Park, Calif - 9/7/2016

 

Other birds that we saw include Wilson's Warblers, Phoebes, Cooper's Hawk, and Western Tanagers.

Western Tanager, Sand Dunes Park, Calif - 9/7/2016 

 

Sept 7, 2016 - Marathon Beach, California

After I left Sand Dunes Park in the late morning, I went over to the nearby Marathon Beach.  It is actually close enough to Sand Dunes Park to just walk, but I drove over anyway and got lucky with a parking spot right near the boardwalk.  Midday, during the week, in September, the beach wasn't exactly crowded, but still there were a lot of people there.  Also a lot of birds.  It seems that the birds have gotten used to the people and the people are making an effort not to bother them.  There were groups of Marbled Godwits sitting with Western Willets on the beach, more curlews and willets in the water, lots of juvenile Black-bellied Plovers (which I took dozens of photographs of because I thought they were Pacific Golden Plovers), and gulls that I carelessly snapped off a few shots of (because I thought they were Herring Gulls) that turned out to be Heermann's Gulls.  I've seen the plover many times on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, but the Heermann Gull range is just the southern California coast.  So this is a lifebird for me. They were also a fair number of Sanderlings running around frantically at the water's edge.  I took a long walk, thoroughly enjoying taking photos of the birds on the beach.  Here's some of what I saw:

 

Marbled Godwit, Marathon Beach, Calif - 9/7/2016

 

Black-bellied Plover, Marathon Beach, Calif - 9/7/2016

 

Heermann's Gull, Marathon Beach, California - 9/7/2016

 

 

On this shot of the Heermann's Gull you can see the grey breast, Marathon Beach, Calif - 9/7/2016